Urban Outfitters issued an apology Monday morning for selling a Kent State University sweatshirt with its college logo and what appears to be splattered blood. The university was the site of a shooting in 1970 that killed four students.
The company said claiming that the product “was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection.” The company added that the bright red stains and holes, which certainly seemed to suggest blood, were simply “discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” The statement added: “We deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively.”
Indeed it was. Outrage built over the weekend, and Kent State censured the company.
“We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit,” the Ohio university said in a statement online. “This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”
Urban Outfitters, a retail chain with a history of stocking controversial items, sold the one-of-a kind item for $129 on its website as part of an assortment of vintage clothing.
“We only have one, so get it or regret it!” the listing from Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters read.
After the sweatshirt was called out on sites such as BuzzFeed, it sold out. The item reappeared on EBay’s auction site, where a seller claimed to have purchased the sweatshirt and was offering it for $2,500. The seller pledged to give 50 percent of the profit to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Urban Outfitters has drawn flak before for its clothing. In 2011, the Navajo nation sent the company a letter demanding that it pull the tribe’s name from a line of purses, T-shirts and underwear. The Spanish clothing chain Zara also sparked outrage last month with a kids’ sheriff shirt that looked like a Holocaust concentration camp uniform.
Oona McCullough, a spokeswoman for Urban Outfitters, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Kent State students were killed by Ohio National Guardsmen during Vietnam War protests, inspiring national outrage and helping galvanize the anti-war movement.
“May 4, 1970, was a watershed moment for the country and especially the Kent State family,” the university said in today’s statement. “We lost four students that day while nine others were wounded and countless others were changed forever.”
Bloomberg and the Washington Post contributed to this report.